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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Dive Into the Craft Beer Scene in Manchester, England

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2. Where to Eat

The mood is cheeky and the burgers decidedly over-the-top at Almost Famous.  

Go down under—literally—at subterranean Australasia. Opened in 2011, the space is accessible via a staircase below a Louvre-like glass pyramid in Spinningfields, the city’s gleaming new business district; inside, it’s all whitewashed bricks and artfully distressed driftwood branches that call to mind the sun-bleached Outback. The contemporary Australian menu pairs European cooking techniques with Pacific Rim flavors from Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and Japan in such dishes as crispy suckling pork belly with pineapple curry ($26) and soft-shell crab and zucchini flower tempura ($21). Be sure to grab a drink at the attached sister cocktail bar, the colonial-inspired Grand Pacific, which opened last summer and serves flowering teas ($7), sparkling wines from Australia and New Zealand ($9), and such Asian-tinged cocktails as kumquat slings ($13) in an outdoor garden.

Follow the crowds to Almost Famous, a buzzy high-meets-low joint (queue up early: there’s no reservations, and waits can top two hours). Opened in 2012, the spot burned down last June and reopened in November in the Great Northern Warehouse, a repurposed Victorian railway goods depot. The vibe is decidedly tongue-in-cheek, with a dining room featuring larger-than-life gorilla and cow statues and oversized Polaroids of burger-eating models, but the chefs are deadly serious about their menu, which features riffs on kitschy Americana staples: waffle fry nachos ($13) and Crack Wings, in flavors such as Suicide, Redneck, and Pho-King Amazing (six for $7). The Dagwood-style burgers come in such over-the-top varieties as the River Phoenix, a double cheeseburger with bacon, BBQ fried onions, baconnaise, chipotle ketchup, “BBQ sass,” fresh chilies, and Frazzles bacon-flavored corn chips ($13).

Indulge in the thirteen-course tasting menu at Manchester House , which opened in Spinningfields last September under the direction of Aiden Byrne, the youngest chef to ever win a Michelin star ($160; reservations required). Byrne’s artfully composed dishes, which can also be ordered a la carte, include high-concept creations such as frog legs Kiev ($20), charred monkfish tail with Jabugo ham and warm salt-cod mousse ($42), gin- and blueberry-cured venison with Sarladaise potatoes ($45), or warm date sponge with parsnip panna cotta and carrot distillation ($14). For a more wallet-friendly option, try the lunch tasting menu, which comes in two ($38), three ($46), or six course ($84) iterations. Either way, don’t leave without trying one of the signature cocktails, such as the gin-based Cotton-oppolis, made with earl-grey syrup and bergamot and served with an edible cotton stem to honor the textile mills of the Industrial Revolution ($21).

Published on May 1, 2014 as a web exclusive.

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